African Manatee Facts
- Perhaps the most notable thing about the amazing African Manatee remains the simple fact that researchers do not know a great deal about the animal. However, the majority of experts believe this distinctive animal to be quite similar to the West Indian Manatee. Since both of the species share the same region, one if often mistaken for the other.
- It represents one of only three species in its particular genus. Quite unfortunately, for several reasons, the spectacular creature lists as Vulnerable with the IUCN. Principle among these is the fact that poachers often prey on the species for its oil, bones, meat, and skin. In addition, habitat loss due to urban expansion and agriculture threaten it as well. Its estimated population numbers fewer than 15,000 individuals.
- But, it also faces the looming threat of ongoing climate change, just like other species around the world. The rather impressive animal remains at an increased risk from these, and other threats, due to its already sparse population. Fortunately, it holds a protected status in all areas it inhabits. But sadly, this status is not strictly enforced in much of its range.
African Manatee Physical Description
First of all, the truly fascinating African Manatee constitutes the second largest of all known varieties of this wonderful mammal. Only the equally remarkable creature known as West Indian Manatee attains a larger average size. In addition, it also displays only a small sign of sexual dimorphism. Females tend to be slightly larger in size.
Firstly, individuals of the species attain an average body length of between 10 13 ft (3 – 4 m). Yet, secondly, exceptional specimens sometimes reach a length of as much as 15 ft (4.6 m). In addition, maximum measured weight equals about 1,100 lb (500 kg). But again, most individuals remain much smaller than this.
However, size alone does not represent the only remarkable physical characteristic this creature displays. Its torpedo-shaped body typically develops widest in the middle. Meanwhile, its highly flattened tail resembles a paddle. Finally, its skin displays a dark gray color, and has a thin covering of fine hairs.
- Kingdom: Animalia
- Phylum: Chordata
- Class: Mammalia
- Order: Sirenia
- Family: Trichechidae
- Genus: Trichechus
- Species: T. senegalensis
African Manatee Distribution, Habitat, and Ecology
The gorgeous African Manatee lives exclusively along a particular portion of the coastline of western Africa. That range includes the coastlines of a total of 19 countries. Within this range, however, it appears to inhabit each region fairly equally. But, its distribution remains comparatively sparse.
Furthermore, the marvelous animal only appears to inhabit a very narrow range of depths. That’s partly because the Sirenian only extends it range out to a distance of about 47 mi (75 km) from the shore. In addition, within that restricted range, it mostly inhabits regions of coastal flats and mangrove forests.
Showing its adaptability, however, it also inhabits several inland lakes. Beyond that, the creature even appears occasionally in such brackish waters as lagoons and estuaries. But areas of calm water appear to be its preferred habitat. The animal also rarely lives in waters with a temperature of less than 64.4 F (18C).
Its dietary habits remain primarily the same as related species, with one notable exception. Most Sirenians only consume non-plant material when necessary for survival. But this animal seems to intentionally seek it out. This mainly consists of clams, mollusks, and fish it finds in nets. However, it still feeds primarily on plants along the shoreline, or hanging over it.
It also evolved as primarily nocturnal in nature. During periods of inactivity, mostly during the daytime, it typically sleeps in shallow waters of no more than 3 -6 ft ( 1- 2 m) deep. It also breeds throughout the year, with a female usually giving birth every 3 – 5 years. A precise lifespan in the wild remains undetermined, but estimates place this at about 30 years.